Is Tickling Allowed in UFC/MMA? (Weird Tactics Examined)

Are you wondering if tickling is allowed in the UFC?

In this article, we’ll examine whether tickling is allowed in the UFC, and any other weird tactics fighters may use mid-fight.

Is Tickling Allowed in UFC/MMA?

Yes, tickling is allowed in the UFC and in MMA.

The UFC has adhered to the Official Unified Rules of MMA since 2001, and nowhere on the comprehensive list of illegal fouls is tickling mentioned.

So, if tickling is allowed in the UFC, why doesn’t any fighter use it during a fight?

The first reason is that it’s looked down upon. The UFC is home to the most elite MMA athletes in the world, looking to test their skills in an honorable and respectful way against the best competition possible.

Using tickling as a way to win a fight isn’t going to be looked upon favorably as it’s acting out of the boundaries of respect well established in the traditions of MMA. Instead, the fighter is likely to have their sexuality questioned, as well as their fighting skill and respect.

The second reason is there’s never an appropriate or effective time to use tickling as a tactic during a fight. 

Fighters who can absorb punches and avoid submissions are hardly going to be phased by being tickled, especially when adrenaline and an increased heart rate make fighters unable to feel mild pain or discomfort.

The only time there’s an option to tickle is during a clinch or on the ground during a grappling exchange.

During a clinch, fighters are using all of their strength against one another in order to initiate strikes (especially in the muay thai clinch), hold their opponent against the fence, or secure a takedown.

There’s not exactly a moment in any of these scenarios where a hand would be free to tickle an opponent. If a hand is free, it’s being used for one of the above reasons as they’re much more effective in getting a win.

If tickling was to be used, it’d most likely be used on the ground in order to escape a submission or create an opportunity for one.

However, UFC fighters are competing for their lives and if tickling was an effective tactic to use, it would be used and respect would be forgotten about in that moment.

Instead, it’s ineffective, and a fighter would much rather throw strikes or defend a rear-naked choke by fighting the hands with all they’ve got rather than trying to defend it by tickling their opponent – in any MMA situation, it just doesn’t work and is a wasted opportunity to inflict damage or improve position.

The last reason tickling isn’t used in the UFC is because it’s very close to clawing, pinching, or twisting flesh; which are all illegal.

In high-paced and adrenaline-infused UFC fights, tickling is likely to be seen by the referee as clawing (scratching) or pinching the skin. In this case, the referee may call a time-out and look for evidence of clawing or pinching.

If there is any, a point would be deducted from the offender and the fighters would be put back in position.

Has Tickling Ever Been Used in the UFC?

For all the reasons mentioned above, tickling has never been used in the UFC and likely never will.

It’s often joked in the MMA community that there was tickling in CM Punk’s second fight against Mike Jackson. He was beaten badly in his first fight and offered very little offensively in both.

CM Punk was a former WWE wrestler who came over to the UFC as an amateur martial artist. This caused a lot of backlash for CM Punk and the UFC with many believing the UFC to be fixed or fake.

More recently, British UFC fighter, Tom Aspinall, joked in his interview with BT Sport about using tickling as a tactic to beat Alexander Volkov. Obviously, the tickling was a joke and he won the fight via takedowns and a straight armbar on the ground.

Lastly, Ronda Rousey said in an interview that tickling isn’t allowed in the UFC and that she’s extremely ticklish. However, tickling isn’t illegal in the UFC or MMA and she likely thought it wasn’t allowed because she’s never experienced it as it’s so rare.

Is Tickling Allowed in Other MMA Promotions?

Most MMA promotions around the world adhere to the Official Unified Rules of MMA, meaning tickling is allowed in any MMA promotion that does so.

Even MMA promotions that don’t adhere to the Unified Rules of MMA have never banned tickling from the sport. This includes popular MMA promotions such as ONE Championship, Pride, and Rizin; all based in Asia.

As discussed above, it’s never been necessary to ban tickling as it’s never been a serious issue because of how ineffective it is during a fight.

Is an Oil Check Allowed in UFC/MMA?

No, oil checks aren’t allowed in the UFC. An oil check, or butt drag, is putting a finger or fingers inside an opponent’s rectum. It’s used to shock an opponent or to gain leverage, both of which are useful in gaining advantageous positions or escaping poor positions.

In the Official Unified Rules of MMA, illegal foul 18 reads, ‘Intentionally placing a finger into any orifice, or into any cut or laceration of your Opponent;

  • A fighter may not place their fingers into an open laceration in an attempt to enlarge the cut. 
  • A fighter may not place their fingers into an opponent’s, nose, ears, mouth, or any body cavity.

Despite oil checks being illegal in the UFC, an oil check was infamously used in 2020 by the legend, Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, in his fight against Paul Craig at UFC 255.

Maurica Rua oil-checked Paul Craig against the fence as a way to defend a single-leg takedown attempt by Paul. It was a bad decision as it allowed Paul Craig to drag Mauricio off balance and secure the takedown.

Herb Dean didn’t penalize the oil check as it happened so quickly and Mauricio was soon on the floor after it happened. If he used it to secure an advantageous position it would’ve been penalized.

It’s also possible that oil checks aren’t penalized as they can be said to be unintentional. The rule states it has to be an intentional placing of fingers into an orifice, so how a referee sees intention is subjective. 

It can be hard for a referee to judge correctly in the moment as there’s nothing in the rules against grabbing an opponent’s glutes or back of the legs, most likely used to prevent a takedown. Therefore, hands may unintentionally go towards an opponent’s rectum in many situations.

Also, oil checks are easily missed as they’re usually performed on the ground or against the fence. Against the fence especially, the referee is mostly focused on fence grabs as they’re common during takedown attempts and clinch exchanges.

This is the case in the above example, as there was only a split second between Mauricio Rua oil checking Paul Craig and him being on the canvas.

Is Kissing Illegal in UFC/MMA?

Kissing isn’t illegal in UFC or MMA, so it’s allowed. The only rule related to kissing in the UFC/MMA is the rule on no biting or spitting.

If a UFC fighter were to kiss an opponent during a fight, as long as no saliva left their mouth (spitting) it wouldn’t be considered illegal. This means licking is illegal in UFC/MMA because saliva would leave the mouth.

However, kissing, much like tickling or oil checks, are part of the forbidden unwritten rules which the overwhelming majority of UFC fighters respect and abide by. Common sense stops most fighters from kissing their opponent as it shows a complete lack of respect.

So, while kissing is legal in UFC/MMA, if a fighter kissed an opponent during a fight, they’d potentially be released or face consequences from the UFC because it’s unsportsmanlike conduct.

There hasn’t been any kissing during UFC fights, but there have been many instances of fighters kissing when facing off at the weigh-ins. One of the most famous was Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman. Although a kiss wasn’t initiated, their lips definitely touched.

Another incident at the UFC 228 ceremonial weigh-ins saw Craig White lean over and kiss Diego Sanchez on the nose. Craig wasn’t punished for the kiss and shows how kissing is legal in UFC. 

The reason it’s not done during a fight is that there’s no time for it and most UFC fighters have respect for their opponent.

Are Inhalers Allowed in UFC/MMA?

Inhalers are allowed in UFC/MMA if the fighter has secured a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE), but they’re not allowed to be used at any time during a fight, not even during the rest period.

Inhalers are used by UFC and MMA athletes as medicine for asthma; a disease that affects the lungs and causes breathlessness, coughing, and chest tightness.

The reason inhalers are illegal without a TUE is that they may contain illegal substances prohibited by USADA.

The illegal substances are all beta-2 agonists, where only 4 types are allowed to be inhaled in limited doses. Taken from USADA’s website, they are:

  • ‘Inhaled albuterol (also called salbutamol): maximum 1,600 micrograms over 24 hours in divided doses, not to exceed 600 micrograms in any 8-hour period. This permitted dosage is only valid for athletes who are not taking any type of diuretic. Athletes using a diuretic (or anything else in the S5 category of the Prohibited List) must have a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for the albuterol AND the diuretic.
  • Inhaled formoterol: maximum delivered dose of 54 micrograms over 24 hours, as long as it is not used in conjunction with a diuretic (or anything else in the S5 category of the Prohibited List).
  • Inhaled salmeterol: maximum 200 micrograms over 24 hours
  • Inhaled vilanterol: maximum 25 micrograms over 24 hours’

Beta-2 agonists are banned by USADA as they’re considered performance enhancing and may give benefits similar to androgenic steroids, such as:

  • Increased muscle mass
  • Increased sprint performance
  • Masking capabilities of other banned substances

The most infamous case was when Greg Hardy used an inhaler between rounds 2 and 3 in his fight against Ben Sosoli. Greg Hardy won the fight by unanimous decision but the result was overturned to a no contest after his use of the inhaler.

The reason for its illegality is that he didn’t have a TUE and was therefore without permission from the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission to use an inhaler.

All UFC fighters in USADA’s testing pool wanting to use an inhaler must secure a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) which is then given to the event commission beforehand.

The Bottom Line

So, ‘is tickling allowed in UFC/MMA?’

Yes, tickling is allowed in the UFC, but it’s not used mainly because it’s ineffective and most likely seen as clawing or pinching an opponent, both illegal fouls.

However, as tickling isn’t mentioned in the Official Unified Rules of MMA and is therefore legal, we’ll have to wait and see what happens once a fighter attempts to tickle an opponent; of which we’ll likely be waiting a long time.

Also, an oil check isn’t allowed in UFC and kissing isn’t illegal in UFC. Inhalers are allowed in the UFC, only if the fighter has secured a Therapeutic Use Exemption and this is given to the necessary athletic commission before an event.

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